The wait is over, Jake's Pizza reopens in Willmar
The renovation at Jake's Pizza in Willmar took nearly a year, but now the restaurant, which has called Willmar home since 1972, is reopening for business.
WILLMAR — Much has changed at Jake's Pizza in Willmar, both inside and outside. But what hasn't changed is the pizza. Still using the famous Jake's Pizza seasoning, the favorite pizza joint for many in and around Willmar is set to reopen its doors after a long wait. It will be open for its regular lunch crowd on Monday, March 2.
"We're ready to get back to making pizzas," said Tanya Olson, who owns Jake's with her husband Ben.
The last time anyone was able to grab a square of Jake's Pizza at the Litchfield Avenue location in Willmar was nearly a year ago, when the restaurant was closed for much-needed roof repairs.
Twelve months later, it isn't only the roof that has gotten updated.
"It took longer because we didn't know what we wanted to do," Olson said.
Olson has been wanting the restaurant to get a makeover for years. It finally all came to a head in March 2019, when the roof started leaking all over. Not only did the building needed a brand new roof, but there were broken rafters as well.
In addition, Jake's was still on the city's district heat system, which is shutting down for good at the end of June. So, the restaurant needed a new heating system. It just made sense to do everything at the same time.
"Everything fell into place," Olson said.
There was some discussion about moving out of downtown, but the restaurant and its building hold a lot of history, even personally for the Olsons.
"We both worked here in high school, this is where we met," Olson said.
Helping the Olsons make the renovation possible were contractors Adam Knight and Matt Monson.
"They were really good getting us in," to their busy schedules, Olson said. "They helped us out."
The facade of the building is now outfitted in new faux wood siding with large windows. The decision to cover up the building's original white tile, which has been there since original tenant Blossom Bakery opened in 1928, was a difficult one, Olson said. However, the new outside look ties in nicely with the upgrades made inside. The tile is still on the building, just covered up.
Inside the restaurant is more open and decorated in a modern farmhouse style, with barn wood on the walls and glass light fixtures hanging from the ceiling. There are brand new booths and tables along with a completely renovated upstairs.
"I went out and picked out what I liked," Olson said.
Downstairs the main dining room showcases historic photos of Willmar's downtown, while upstairs the photo focus is on the family and friends of Jake's Pizza, along with historic photos of the bakery.
There is also new flat-screen televisions on the walls, with the hope people will come to Jake's to watch a game while enjoying a pizza or something else on the menu.
The menu as been added to, though the pizza is still the star. Those wanting a pizza fix but are watching their gluten intake will now be able to enjoy Jake's.
"We've added a cauliflower crust, it's gluten-free," Olson said.
Other menu additions included sandwiches, paninis, appetizers and desserts.
"We haven't had desserts in a while," Olson.
The drinks menus have expanded as well. The restaurant recently received its beer and wine license from the city.
"We'll be adding that to our menu shortly," Olson said.
If the crowds Jake's has seen during its soft openings this week is anything to go by, Olson might decide to hold off on the new menu items, at least until the pent up demand for pizza has waned. On Friday the wait was nearly an hour.
"They were willing to wait," Olson said of the large crowd that showed up Friday.
The large crowds and ongoing community support have been a relief. Olson said there was worry about being closed for so long and if the customers would be back once Jake's reopened. It doesn't' look like that will be a concern, if Jake's Facebook page is anything to go by. For the entire remodel hundreds commented, asking when it was going to reopen.
"We started to see the community does support us," Olson said.
With the renovation complete, Olson is ready to get back to work and fulfill Willmar's craving for Jake's Pizza.
"We're thankful people have been patient," Olson said.